SALEM - Republican candidates Sharon Kennedy and Robert Cupp expressed similar views on the role of an Ohio Supreme Court Justice during a recent visit to the area, both seeing the job as limited to honoring the Constitution, not rewriting it.
"I think Ohioans want justices who answer the legal question before them without broadening it," Kennedy said.
Cupp, who already sits on the high court and is seeking re-election, said the justice's role is to apply the plain meaning of the Constitution to the case that's come before the court for resolution, "not to be a super legislator or put in what the justice thinks the law ought to be."
Kennedy is running against appointed Democrat Justice Yvette McGee Brown,who's seeking to retain the seat she gained when outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland appointed her before leaving office.
The 50-year-old lives in Liberty Township in Butler County where she's been serving as a Common Pleas Court judge in the Domestic Relations Division since 1999. She said she decided to run for Ohio Supreme Court because she's concerned about the direction of Ohio. She said Ohio's highest court needs to have justices who believe in the separation of powers of the Constitution and adhere to it.
She touts 27 years of dedicated service to justice, beginning with three years as a police officer in Hamilton, one of only seven judges in the state who have served on the streets in law enforcement. If elected, she would be the first police officer to serve on the Ohio Supreme Court.
She also served in the Common Pleas Court General Division as a law clerk and as director of the victim/witness division, in private practice handling all types of cases, as a part-time magistrate in Butler County Area Courts and as special counsel for Attorney General Betty Montgomery.
She earned a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Cincinnati and her law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Kennedy summed up her race with Brown by describing it as a "difference of judicial philosophy and service." She quoted Brown as saying that Brown was looking to move the law forward, but Kennedy said that's not her view of the justice system.
"Our job is to uphold the law as written. We don't get to end game it," she said.
In court every day handling the issues that come up when a marriage ends, including child custody and visitation battles, she said, "I solve community problems one family at a time."
She also said she believes in going out into the community to talk about the justice system and what the courts do. She said there's a disconnect between the people and the court system. Kennedy described herself as a workaholic. She's single and was raised in a very traditional working class family where her parents told her it didn't matter where she came from, she could do whatever she wanted to do as long as she committed to her dream, worked hard and never gave up.
When she's not on the bench, she shoots clays. She's also an avid reader of crime dramas and likes to sew and cook.
Cupp, 61, has served in all three branches of government, beginning with the executive branch in the city of Lima as assistant law director and city prosecutor and as Allen County Commissioner. He served 16 years in the Ohio Senate representing the 12th Senate District, with his final four years as President Pro Tempore, the second-highest position in the senate. He said he gained broad experience in different fields of law while serving. He also had 25 years in private practice.
After leaving the senate due to term limits, he served on the Ohio Court of Appeals, Third Appellate District, from 2003 to 2006. He was elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio in November 2006 and began his service on the high court in 2007.
Cupp earned a bachelor's degree in politicial science from Ohio Northern University and his law degree from Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law.
He said his approach is "to help maintain for Ohio a system of justice that's stable, constant and fair."
He said he doesn't try to make up new law, to rewrite the statutes or rewrite statutes by unusual or creative interpretation. He said there's value in a stable legal environment. He said it's good for the economic revitalization of Ohio.
Cupp decided to seek re-election because he enjoys the work, it's challenging and he feels he can make a contribution. He described himself as "deliberate, thoughtful and consistent."
"I believe in judicial restraint. A justice's role is limited and should not intrude on the policy-making authority of the legislature or the governor," he said.
He and his wife, Libby, have been married 34 years. They have two sons and two grandchildren. Cupp grew up on a farm and the farmer in him remains, but mostly with gardening and growing roses and fruit trees.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org